I am missing Paris this week. We have been home three months now and I have been trying to process the whole experience. I wanted to write down my thoughts on the subject before I forget everything. Moving abroad was definitely one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Before we went Paul and I had always talked about moving abroad like a lot of people do. But the motivation really came when I was at a photo shoot for Anthology Magazine and the photographer and the artist (whose home we were shooting) were talking about the time they each had spent in Paris. And it sort of clicked, I realized that a lot of creative people I knew had “done their time” in Paris. I don’t think moving to Paris is necessary for being creative but I decided if there was any way we could make it happen, we should try.
We started to research about visas and we realized if we could both keep our jobs and work remotely from Paris then we wouldn’t have to go through the challenges of finding a job and getting a work visa (very difficult). We were also happy to find out that rent in Paris is cheaper than in San Francisco. Our two bedroom apartment in Paris which was in a nice neighborhood and had a small view of the Eiffel Tower was about $2500/month. In San Francisco a two bedroom in an equivalent neighborhood would be more like $3200/month. If you don’t live in a city that probably sounds like a lot but all the New Yorkers reading this I’m sure are rolling their eyes about how affordable it is! (On a sidenote, my sister moved to the French countryside at the same time and they have a huge Farmhouse for about $1500/month. She covers all of that in this post.)
The financial aspect for me was the most frightening. I don’t get nervous very often but it was terrifying putting ourselves in a place where we weren’t sure how much we would make (as freelancers our income is always inconsistent) or how much our monthly expenses would be. Sometimes people use words like “lucky” about us moving to Paris, and I know we are. But I want to sit them down and explain to them how scary it was moving to France. It put us so far out of our comfort zone in every way possible. We didn’t speak French, we didn’t know a soul, we didn’t even have a place to live, or (continue reading below)
even have hard numbers of how much it would cost.
We applied for long stay tourist visas at the French consulate in San Francisco. I made an appointment three months in advance of our tentative flight date and then started preparing the documentation. This should have been a clue at the bureaucracy we would face when we moved there. They pretty much wanted every document that ever existed pertaining to all four of us. And the copies! They wanted 3-4 copies of each document. I put together an extremely organized and detailed binder with every possible document they could ask for. They also wanted proof of income so we had to show all our bank account statements (we made sure to print it out before we had to pay our bills that month so it looked nice and full.) And they wanted letters from our employers that they were planning to continue employing us while we were in France. With a long stay tourist visa you are required to maintain your US insurance policy so we got a letter from our insurance agent saying our policy was still in effect and that if we needed to be flown back to the US for medical treatment they would cover it. They also asked for our place of residency in France. We didn’t have an apartment yet but were tentatively planning on renting a temporary apartment for a month while we searched for a permanent place. The owner of the apartment gave us a letter indicating that we were planning on staying there while we looked. When we went in to our visa appointments we dressed very formally and tried to make a good impression. They called us a few days later and asked us about our plane tickets. There was a place on the application where they wanted you to book the tickets before you got approved. It made me nervous to buy the tickets before they were even approved so I had left that part blank. On the phone they told me to purchase the plane tickets and bring them in the next day and they would issue our visa.
We were so nervous and excited. Up to that point we had spent a few hundred dollars on visa applications but we could’ve still backed out of the whole thing. Buying the plane tickets was expensive and once we did that we couldn’t go back. So scary!!! We had a nice long discussion about if we should really do it debating all the pros and cons and after some deliberation that evening we purchased our non refundable direct flights to Paris, France. We picked up our official French visas the next day and we were on our way! (to be continued…)